Market Monday: Miami Vice
Sleuthing through deals and delinquency after the usual suspects have fled South Florida...
Let's start with the headliner: At this year's edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, Kat Herrimans found the defining trait to be a focus on "conservative" blue-chip works. (Others made the same point less diplomatically.) Since exhibitors' booth applications were due all the way back in March, their mass evacuation to safe names reflects that collectors' growing risk aversion was already evident in the first quarter (as Scott Reyburn wrote earlier this year). It's a useful reminder that lead time makes the art market's cyclicality self-reinforcing: Sellers use buyer sentiment in the moment to make decisions about what to offer at fairs, auctions, and exhibitions that need to be planned months in advance... and when those events finally happen, buyers use sellers' long-ago-determined offerings to judge how they should feel about the market in the moment. And round and round we go... [The New York Times]
However, Art Basel wasn't a total fortress of conservatism, either. Melanie Gerlis wrote about the small minority of politically-charged works on view at the fair, with the spotlight issues ranging from climate change and state oppression to an array of viewpoints on the world's migrant crisis. Far less surprising were the early returns: Gerlis noted that only one of the pieces in her feature had sold by publication time, implying once again that the vast majority of collectors would rather use fine art as an escape from reality than a way to engage it. [The Art Newspaper]
Moving on to the acknowledged silver medalist in Miami's fair week battle royale, Scott Indrisek called NADA Miami Beach an edgier and more soulful viewing experience than Basel, as well as one whose much lower prices (primarily in the four to five-figure range) kept sales brisk. Based on his descriptions of the work––my favorite of which centers around the phrase "cock-centric graffiti"––I trust Indrisek's read of the subject matter. But it's also worth noting his mention that painting was still the dominant medium on display. Art fairs' frantic hustle and high stakes incentivize exhibitors to show works that potential buyers will instantly "get." Most sellers still therefore default to traditional, static media rather than risking booth space on, say, software or video-based works. And that automatically limits the adventurousness of any fair, cock-centric graffiti be damned. [Blouin ArtInfo]
Just eight months removed from her own cover story on Los Angeles's freshly blossoming gallery landscape, the LA Weekly's Catherine Wagley reported on how the Arts District––seemingly one of the scene's strongest new stalks––is already being strangled by the weeds of gentrification it helped nourish. The story centers on the eviction of two of the neighborhood's most promising galleries: Ibid. and Harmony Murphy. Even more sobering than their joint property manager's square-footage rate-spike is his disbelief that his tenants would deny him influence on their programming. If that expectation is shared by other developers, then it's safe to say that the neighborhood's potential to become a serious, long-term arts hub is already in the compost bin. [LA Weekly]
And finally this week, Mattel became the latest tributary in the mainstreaming of fine art by releasing a limited edition Andy Warhol Barbie. Created in collaboration with the Warhol Foundation, the doll rocks the legend's trademark platinum-blonde moptop, a leather-jacket-and-skinny-jeans outfit, and accessories that include a Polaroid camera and a miniature replica of one of Warhol's Barbie paintings. I think this is actually a fitting tribute to Andy and his art-as-commerce-legacy. I just hope it doesn't trigger rival toymaker Hasbro to create a Valerie Solanas G.I. Joe to retaliate. [artnet News]
That's all for this edition. Remember that you can get more coverage like this in your inbox every Sunday night by signing up for the Gray Market newsletter. Otherwise, hope no one caught a case from the man or lost a leg to a gator in Miami. But stay strong til next time regardless.